Essentially, a résumé is an overview of the experience and credentials of a candidate put together in a way so as to present him or her as one of the best choices available to an employer. The resume initiates the process of introducing a candidate to the employer. Hence, it should have both introductory and personal presentation. So, it is important to make a résumé concise, easy to read, positive and interesting.
The résumé needs to be focused on the targeted job, thus the need to make the content relevant. An often-made mistake is to develop a “one-size-fits-all” résumé without tailoring it to the specifics of the job.
Know what the reader wants out of your résumé. Key professional behaviors that a reader will want to see emanating from reading your resume include communication and listening skills, ability to be a team player, goal orientation, analytical skills, motivation and initiative, reliability and dedication, determination, confidence, pride, integrity, efficiency and the ability to follow directions.
Make it easy to read: The manner of presentation makes an impact on the ease of reading the résumé. Use of gimmicks should be avoided. In general, recruiters approach resumes conservatively and do not like or trust being presented with resumes printed on color paper, in 3D, with unusual fonts, or shaped like whatever product the company is trying to sell.
Use the font size 10-12. For a traditional look, use the serif Times New Roman. Use Century Old Style for traditional business jobs.
- Avoid jumping between too many fonts
- Bold and italics should be used to make important information stand out
- Use black and white; the use of color should be restricted to a minimum
- The format should be kept neat and well-organized. Format consistently throughout the document.
Choose a style you’ll use: Leaving out personal pronouns is a common practice. The use of third person or first person is up to the candidate and his personal style. Making the résumé overly stiff/casual should be avoided.
One should be careful so as to maintain the correct tense throughout the resume.
Decide on the positioning of the content: A résumé can be chronological or functional (focusing on specific professional skills). Chronological résumés work well for people who have remained steady in the same profession and can demonstrate an improving history of experience.
For people who change their jobs frequently, it can make one appear less reliable/stable. The functional résumé works best for older workers, for frequent job changers, and for anyone who wishes to focus more on skills. These days, many résumés tend to be a combination of both the approaches.
Make a master list: This list is the working document from which you create a new résumé. Having the master list triggers your memory quickly and allows you to pick the most impressive thing of all your experiences, rather than leaving you tempted to include absolutely everything in the resume.
Make a list of all the jobs you have done. Don’t leave out anything. Even short stints, internships, or work experience opportunities should be included. Add awards, educational degrees, skills, and personal projects.
Consider the résumé content carefully: The résumé should be brief and unless one has substantial experience in many fields, it’s important to keep one’s résumé from 1 to 2 pages in length at the most. If you’re just out of school or college, make the résumé no more than one page. List your scholastic accomplishments, including involvement in official positions, school newspaper, student council, awards, etc.
Provide your educational history. One should always list top accomplishments first, for example, use the order: PhD, MA, BA, diploma, certificate. It is standard to abbreviate degrees. List the relevant scholarships and awards.
- Include accreditation and licences.
- Include employment dates. A résumé that does not include the dates makes recruiters nervous.
- Include an address, phone number and an email address. But do not include an email address that suggests that you shouldn’t be taken seriously, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t use your current employer’s name, number or email.
Tailor your résumé: Using your master list, try to trim out any irrelevant information, and rework the relevance of the remaining information that you’re including.
Make the tone positive. Whenever possible, list your experience in terms of accomplishments and achievements rather than tasks and responsibilities. Show your success. Accomplishments are more impressive than a list of duties. Explain the relevance to the targeted job of the content placed in the résumé.
Know what to watch out for. There are some things that might seem good but are real “deal-killers” when it comes to a recruiter trying to assess if you are worth being added to the workplace.
Don’t make demands. Leave this part for the negotiations at the time of the job offer.
- Don’t inflate your achievements and abilities. If you haven’t done it, don’t say you have; if you’re in the process of it, simply make that clear!
- Be careful to avoid coming across as stubborn, arrogant, or difficult to work with. It might seem fine to tell someone that you’re strong willed and stand your ground in a dispute, but this can suggest that you’re inflexible and disinterested in listening to others’ opinions.
- Avoid listing weaknesses. This is a sales document, not a soul-searching exercise. Leave the “What are your weaknesses” question to the interviewer.
- Unless relevant to your job, do not mention age, race, religion, sex, and national origin.
- Forget the photograph if your appearance doesn’t matter for the job (such as modeling).
Points to watch out
- Triple check everything written – Don’t boast about written communication skills with a typo.
- If you do list the names of references (generally not recommended!), be sure you have their permission to be contacted for this purpose.
- Back up your master list and all copies of tailored résumés.
- Padding, inflating, or outright lying in a résumé is wrong, and in some places also illegal. News of your lying in your resume will travel by word-of-mouth and may result in your being regarded poorly by other recruiters in the industry.
- Using capitalized words to emphasize points is unprofessional, and should be avoided.
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